What’s Class Got to Do with It?

As an editor you get to read synopses of nascent books across a wide variety of disciplines.  A live topic in sociology and poli-sci is class.  As in “the hidden injuries of.”  So I’ve been grinding class in the machinery of my mind and the product always seems to be a question mark.  Neither of my parents finished high school.  My father worked, when he did, as a house painter.  With three children and no money for childcare (and not even a GED), my mother was of the stay-at-home variety.  I saw neither parent, and this would include my step-father, sit down to read a book for enjoyment.  My mother read the Bible for consolation, and read us children’s books before bed, but literature wasn’t really part of our lives.  I still think of myself as working class because that’s what I learned growing up.  Working class with books.

I recently posted about a contract for my fifth book.  The previous four have earned total royalties of well under four figures (combined).  I’ve been asked why I do it.  It’s not an expectation of my job.  It takes up most of my time outside an unrelenting nine-to-five.  Where does it get me?  None of my books (so far) have sold more than 300 copies.  I can see why—they’re either expensive or obscure (perhaps both).  But I love books and reading and I want to give back.  The truth is I don’t know why I do it.  Working class folk wind down from work in different ways.  Some of us do it by writing, I guess.

Learning, for me, works best if someone shows me how to do it.  I expect that’s why I did so well as a teacher.  Explaining things works for me.  I still run into this all the time—people come at you in media res and suppose you’ll know what they’re talking about.  At work, in extra-curricular organizations, just about everywhere.  My working class response is “whoa, back up!”  There’s no better place to start than the beginning.  It’s folk wisdom, I suppose.  In this world where everyone middle class is too busy, they don’t like to stop and tell you what you need to know to get started.  I don’t know how to be middle class.  One of my early jobs involved using a sledge-hammer.  I’d never done it before and I learned by watching others.  I’m not qualified to theorize about class, but I do know that by the end of the day that blisters will accompany any new task.

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